The Great Nappy Debate Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Great Nappy Debate

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So you are expecting a new family member to arrive and are wondering about toilet arrangements for the little one?

You have three main options: cloth nappies1, disposable nappies or elimination communication (EC). There are pros and cons of all options and each family will find the solution that works best for them.

Disposable nappies come in a range of sizes from teeny preemie to large toddler and even bigger for use overnight or for special needs individuals. They usually come in one piece and are filled with absorbent crystals that turn to gel when wet. These always feel dry to the skin and some think that this is causing the age of toilet training to increase in recent years. There are many chemicals used in their manufacture and at a typical cost of 10-20p per nappy they can add up over the typical 2-3 years your child will need them for. 

Cloth nappies may have most people thinking of terry towelling squares, nappy pins and plastic pants. However, the last ten years has seen a huge leap forward in cloth nappies with Velcro or popper fastenings. With quick-drying microfiber and absorbent bamboo and breathable fabrics such as fleece and wool being used, some cloth nappies are no harder to use than disposables. They do need to be washed and dried but some local councils offer this service at a discounted cost to encourage the use of cloth nappies. They can seem expensive initially but making use of bargains and the pre-loved market they can work out much cheaper than disposables over 2-3 years. They are also much better for the environment.

Elimination communication is fairly uncommon in the western world but widely practiced in Africa and Asia. All babies will show signs of needing to empty their bowels or bladder. EC requires parents and carers to be vigilant for these signs and to hold the baby over a suitable receptacle whilst 'cueing' them (wiss wiss wiss or ka ka ka etc). Although being potentially time consuming, it has the advantage of fewer dirty nappies to wash or dispose of. It can take a few days to master the art but some people using this method never use nappies. Others do it part time, or just once per day using nappies the rest of the time. 

Every family will create their own solution which suits them, some may even take aspects from all three options.

1These are called diapers in some parts of the world.

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